2014 Green Building Facts

green-building-trendsMARKET IMPACT

By 2015, an estimated 40-48% of new nonresidential construction by value will be green, equating to a $120-145 billion opportunity1

U.S. respondents to a 2012 international survey projected that 58% of their building activities in 2015 would be green2

More than 3.3 billion square feet of building space are LEED-certified (as of October 17, 2014)

41% of all nonresidential building starts in 2012 were green, as compared to 2% of all nonresidential building starts in 2005.3

The construction market accounts for 5.5% of the $14.7 trillion U.S. GDP.4 This includes all commercial, residential, industrial and infrastructure construction

With energy efficiency financing having the potential to soar from $20 to $150 billion annually, over one million jobs could be created5

Areas with the greatest proportion of green office buildings relative to the total stock of buildings in the market6:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • District of Columbia
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Illinois
  • California

LEED is referenced in project specifications for 71% of projects valued at $50 million and over7

The number of LEED certified federal building projects in the U.S. increased by more than 50 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Achieving LEED certification is a top sustainable goal for both private and public organizations, with LEED Gold certification being set as the goal for a majority of the organizations8

INTERNATIONAL

LEED is becoming increasingly international9

As of October 2014, approximately 44% of all square footage pursuing LEED certification existed outside the U.S.

Project expectations in four countries in 201510:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • Brazil – 83% of firms planning new green commercial projects
  • Singapore – 69% of firms planning green renovation projects
  • United Arab Emirates – 73% of firms planning green institutional projects
  • United Kingdom – 65% of firms planning green renovation projects

ENERGY

By sector11:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • Buildings: 41%
  • Industrial: 30%
  • Transportation: 29%

Buildings are one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources and account for a significant portion of the greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change. In the U.S., buildings account for:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • 38% of all CO2 emissions12
  • 73% of electricity consumption13
  • Green buildings consume less energy. Compared to the average commercial building, the LEED Gold buildings in the General Services Administration’s portfolio generally14:<ulclass=”plainlist”>
  • Consume 25% less energy and 11% less water
  • Have 19% lower maintenance costs
  • 27% higher occupant satisfaction
  • 34% lower greenhouse gas emissions

LEED buildings avoided 0.35% of total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2011. The percentage of CO2 avoidance attributed to LEED buildings is estimated to be 4.92% in 203015.

WATER

Buildings use 13.6% of all potable water, or 15 trillion gallons per year16.

The industry expects that water-efficiency efforts will17:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • Decrease energy use by 10-11%
  • Save 11-12% of operating costs
  • Reduce water use by 15%

Retrofitting 1 out of 100 American homes with water-efficient fixtures could avoid approximately 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of removing 15,000 cars from the road for one year18

MATERIALS

Buildings use 40% of raw materials globally (3 billion tons annually)19

The EPA estimates that 170 Million tons of building-related construction and demolition (C&D) debris was generated in the U.S. in 2003, with 61% coming from nonresidential and 39% from residential sources20. They also estimate that 250 million tons of municipal solid waste was generated in the U.S. in a single year21.

Green buildings consume less energy and fewer resources:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • LEED projects are responsible for diverting over 80 million tons of waste from landfills, which is expected to grow to 540 million tons of waste diversion by 203022.

EXISTING BUILDING MARKET

Square footage of LEED-certified existing buildings surpassed LEED-certified new construction by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis.

Approximately 61% of all construction projects are retrofit projects23.

The market share of green retrofit projects have been projected to rise to 20-30% in 201424.

By 2015, the green share of the largest nonresidential retrofit and renovation activity will more than triple, growing to 25-33% of the activity by value—a $14-18 billion opportunity in major construction projects alone25.

39% of building owners are planning to pursue green certifications for existing buildings by 201326.

Firms that completed green building retrofit projects report27:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • Decrease in operating costs: over one year, 9%; over five years,13%
  • Expected increase in asset valuation according to building owners: 4%
  • Number of years until payback is expected: 7

88% of Building Information Modeling (BIM) users surveyed who are not currently using Green BIM expect that within two years their firms will use BIM on a green retrofit project28.

One billion square feet of buildings are demolished and replaced with new construction each year29.

BUILDING PERFORMANCE

A review of data from 195 LEED projects found:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • The buildings are in the top 11th percentile in the U.S. in terms of energy usage
  • Have an average ENERGY STAR score of 89 points (out of 100)
  • Have a 57% lower Source Energy Use Intensity than the national average (as reported through EPA Portfolio Manager)

The majority of the buildings were office or retail, avg. 254,000 sf, certified under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system

An analysis of LEED projects in the San Francisco Bay area found:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • More than half achieved LEED Gold (52% of the projects)
  • Projects certified under LEED for New Construction exceed ASHRAE standard 90.1 (1999, 2004, or 2007) by 25%.
  • Projects certified under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance have ENERGY STAR score of 88 points (out of 100).

An analysis of 7,100 projects certified under LEED for New Construction found30:<ulclass=”plainlist”>

  • 92.2% are improving energy performance by 10.5%
  • <89% are improving energy performance by 14%

Industry Sectors with the Highest Penetration of Green Building31

  1. Education
  2. Health care
  3. Office

What’s Driving Green Building?

These factors are driving dramatic green building market growth32.

  1. The economy
  2. The largest nonresidential projects by size are more frequently green
  3. Mandates and policies

TOP 10 LEED LOCALES

Top 10 States in the U.S.A. for LEED: Registered & Certified (as of October 17, 2014)

  1. Illinois
  2. Maryland
  3. Virginia
  4. Massachusetts
  5. (tie) New York
  6. (tie) California
  7. Oregon
  8. North Carolina
  9. Colorado
  10. Hawaii
  11. Minnesota

Top 10 Countries Registered & Certified (as of October 17, 2014)

  1. Canada
  2. China
  3. India
  4. South Korea
  5. Taiwan
  6. Germany
  7. Brazil
  8. Singapore
  9. United Arab Emirates
  10. Finland

RESOURCES

  1. McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth.
  2. McGraw-Hill Construction (2012). World Green Buildings Study. Accessed Nov. 29, 2012.
  3. McGraw Hill Construction (2012). Green Building Market Sizing, drawn from Dodge Project Starts and Construction Market Forecasting Services, as of March 2012.
  4. Department of Commerce (2011). Annual Value of Construction Put in Place – 2002-2010. Accessed October 21, 2011. Bureau of Economic Analysis (2011). BEA News Release: Gross Domestic Product. Accessed Oct. 24, 2011
  5. Pollin, R., Heintz, J., Garrett-Peltier, H. – Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) and Hendricks, B., Ettlinger, M. – Center for American Progress (2009). The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy.
  6. Miller, N. (2010). Does Green Still Pay Off?
  7. McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth.
  8. McGraw Hill Construction (2012). Smart Market Executive Brief. Determining the Value of Green Building Investments: A perspective from industry leaders on triple bottom line decision making.
  9. Watson, Rob. Green Building and Market Impact Report – 2011. Accessed Nov. 15, 2011.
  10. McGraw-Hill Construction (2012). World Green Buildings Study. Accessed Nov. 29, 2012.
  11. National Trust for Historic Preservation (2011). The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse. Accessed Jan. 26, 2012.
  12. Energy Information Administration (2008). Assumptions to the Annual Energy Outlook.
  13. Department of Energy (2011). Buildings Energy Data Book. Buildings Share of Electricity Consumption/Sales. Accessed October 26, 2011.
  14. U.S. Department of Energy (2011). Re-Assessing Green Building Performance: A Post Occupancy Evaluation of 22 Buildings.
  15. Watson, Rob. Green Building and Market Impact Report – 2011. Accessed Nov. 15, 2011.
  16. U.S. Geological Survey (2000). 2000 data.
  17. McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth.
  18. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Green Building, Green Homes, Conserving Water. Water Use and Energy. Accessed December 14, 2011.
  19. Lenssen and Roodman (1995). Worldwatch Paper 124: A Building Revolution: How Ecology and Health Concerns are Transforming Construction. Worldwatch Institute.
  20. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2009). Estimating 2003 Building-Related Construction and Demolition Materials Amounts.
  21. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2008). Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008. Accessed Nov. 7, 2011.
  22. Watson, Rob. Green Building and Market Impact Report – 2011. Accessed Nov. 15, 2011.
  23. McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Smart Market Reports. Green BIM – How Building Information Modeling is Contributing to Green Design and Construction.
  24. McGraw Hill Construction (2009). Green Building Retrofit & Renovation SmartMarket Report.
  25. McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth.
  26. CoStar Group. Current Trends in Green Real Estate, Summer 2011 Update. Accessed Nov. 22, 2011.
  27. McGraw-Hill Construction (2012). World Green Buildings Study. Accessed Nov. 29, 2012.
  28. McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Smart Market Reports. Green BIM – How Building Information Modeling is Contributing to Green Design and Construction.
  29. National Trust for Historic Preservation (2011). The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse. Accessed Jan. 26, 2012.
  30. U.S. Green Building Council (2012). New Analysis: LEED Buildings are in Top 11th Percentile for Energy Performance in the Nation. Accessed December 14, 2012.
  31. McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth.
  32. McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth.

Sustainability execs detail 2014’s proudest achievements

by John Davies –

Laurel wreath in sparks

ShutterstockSean Liew

As 2014 comes to a close, we asked members of the GreenBiz Executive Network, our member-based, peer-to-peer learning forum for sustainability professionals, to reflect on the past year and assess their progress.

They obliged by telling us about many of their major accomplishments in 2014. What you’ll read below is a mix of themes. There’s some well-deserved bragging (we like to be inspired by success). There are big initiatives that have been launched, most requiring extensive partnerships across entire value chains. And there are great examples of embedding sustainability strategy deep into organizations, ensuring greater action and execution.

Here’s what they said when we asked: What was your company’s greatest accomplishment this year?

David Lear, executive director, corporate sustainability, Dell

David Lear, executive director, corporate sustainability, Dell

Lear

We took a big step toward closing the recycling loop this year. In May we launched our closed-loop plastics supply chain, using plastics from the computers and parts recovered through our existing takeback and recycling programs to build brand new systems. Not only is it helping us reach our 2020 Legacy of Good goals, but the nearly 700 tons of closed-loop plastics shipped to our molders have saved money while reducing emissions compared to using virgin plastics.

Vince Digneo, sustainability specialist, Adobe

Vince Digneo, Sustainability Specialist, Adobe

Digneo

We all know it’s the Wild West out there when it comes ratings and rankings. But we’ll celebrate a few while we can. This year Adobe made No. 1 in technology, No. 2 in U.S., No. 3 in the world on Newsweek’s Green Rankings. Also, we raised our CDP score to 99 (from 97 in 2013, 93 in 2012), and made Trucost’s Natural Capital Leadership Index. If ratings are a reflection of performance, we’re pretty happy.

Holly Emerson, senior analyst, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Ingersoll Rand

Holly Emerson, Senior Analyst, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Ingersoll Rand

Emerson

We made a progressive and broad global commitment as part of the Clinton Global Initiative and United Nations Climate Summit to reduce our products’ greenhouse gas refrigerant footprint by 50 percent by 2020, and introduce lower global warming potential alternatives across our portfolio by 2030. We also committed to reduce our operational greenhouse gas footprint by 35 percent by 2020. In 2015 we are excited to begin the work to reach our newly established 2020 goals which cover six focus areas: governance; suppliers; operational footprint; customer outcomes; our people; and corporate citizenship.

Bob Langert, corporate VP, CSR/Sustainability, McDonald’s Corporation

Bob Langert, Corporate VP, CSR/Sustainability, McDonald&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;#039;s Corporation

Langert

There are not many times one can say they are involved with a very transformative program. McDonald’s collaborative effort to start the path toward sustainable beefis a big deal. Of course the real accomplishment is later, when we actually purchase sustainable beef.  So I cannot wait for 2020 when we will look back and see 2014 as a milestone year for the most material animal in the food chain: the cow. If cars, computers and clothing can be on sustainable paths, why not cattle?

Jeff Farlow, program manager, energy initiatives, Pentair

Jeff Farlow, Program Manager of Energy Initiatives at Pentair

Farlow

This year, the EPA named Pentair a 2014 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for our contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by manufacturing energy-efficient products and educating consumers about energy efficiency. This honor follows 10 years of efforts to make our pumps more energy efficient than typical pumps, beginning with our introduction of the ultra-efficient IntelliFlo integrated variable speed pump in 2005. Despite feedback suggesting consumers would not be willing to pay nearly double that of a traditional pump, we demonstrated the long-term benefits of the new pump, outlining the business opportunity in new construction implementation and retrofitting for the nation’s 5 million in-ground pools. As a result of this foresight, Pentair maintained the industry’s only integrated variable speed pump for five years.

In 2008, we began collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA to develop a set of energy efficiency standards for pool pumps. The resulting Energy Star standards for pool pumps could reduce pool energy use by as much as 90 percent. With its IntelliFlo products, Pentair’s pump line was already achieving this standard. In fact, since 2005 Pentair’s pumps have saved over 5.8 billion kilowatt-hours, and counting.

Asheen Phansey, environmental sustainability manager, Dassault Systèmes

Asheen Phansey, Environmental Sustainability Manager, Dassault Systèmes

Phansey

This year Dassault Systèmes acquired Accelrys and combined it with our own BioIntelligence project to form our BIOVIA brand. We now have the technology to model biological and chemical structures, which I hope will help us make meaningful advances in the human health side of sustainability. Relatedly, we also launched our Living Heart project, where surgeons can model in virtual reality the actual heart they’re about to operate on. On the pure sustainability side, we’re excited about technology collaborations we’ve launched with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Biomimicry 3.8, which I hope to talk more about in 2015.

Jeff Rehm, senior manager, corporate facilities and global sustainability, W.W. Grainger

Jeff Rehm, Sr. Manager Corporate Facilities &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Global Sustainability, W. W. Grainger

Rehm

At Grainger, the sustainability team evolved considerably in 2014. Prior to this year, our team had been acting much more as consultants, providing our 2 cents on various organizational initiatives. In 2014, our team began to proactively provide sustainability as a service to the business. We have created a repeatable energy and waste management audit for our facilities that has taken costs out of our partners’ operating budgets.

Brandy Wilson, director of sustainability, CH2MHill

Brandy Wilson, Director of Sustainability, CH2MHill

Wilson

One of our most rewarding client engagements around sustainability is working with 18 fashion and sports brands on the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program. These forward-thinking companies include some of the largest fashion and sportswear brands in the world, which each have committed to eliminating the use of 11 classes of hazardous chemicals from textile production by 2020. Our greatest accomplishment from an internal program perspective was being a G4 pioneer: We were one of the first companies to issue our sustainability report to the new GRI G4 reporting standard. We focused on materiality through a new lens and discovered a whole new way of looking at our value chain as a result.

John Schulz, AVP of sustainability operations, AT&T  

John Schulz, AVP of Sustainability Operations, AT&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;T

Schulz

After years of issuing traditional, static sustainability reports, we realized this format was limiting our ability to provide the most current information in the most accessible way possible. So we created a suite of online resources that lets people find information more easily. We created a concise, written report including a GRI table (G3.1 at a Level B). But we also built an online library which features data and updates on our material issues. In addition, we launched a Twitter handle @ConnectToGoodand a blog on a new web portal called People/Planet/Possibilities. These tools free us from the constraints of once-a-year reporting to let us talk about new projects, milestones and employee accomplishments when they happen.

Jenny Cross, vice president, corporate sustainability, Mohawk Industries

Jenny Cross, Vice President, Corporate Sustainability, Mohawk Industries

Cross

We had a lot of wins in 2014, but I would have to say that the greatest has been our ability to remain focused on sustainability while undergoing major changes as we successfully integrated three acquisitions in seven countries. That really speaks to the commitment to sustainability we have developed at Mohawk Industries. Mohawk has grown significantly within the last two years and with all of the challenges that entails, we continue to see solid progress toward our sustainability goals and our reduction targets. I have seen change of this magnitude lead other organizations into chaos or complacency, but we have successfully managed to remain focused on the big picture thanks to the dedication of our leadership and thousands of associates.

Scott Weislow, senior director, environmental services, Best Buy Co., Inc.

Scott Weislow, Senior Director – Environmental Services, Best Buy Co., Inc.

Weislow

Best Buy was very excited to meet our goal of collecting 1 billion pounds of consumer electronics and large appliances for recycling in less than five years. We actually achieved this goal with our valued customers six months ahead of schedule. We accept electronics and large appliances for free recycling — regardless of where the product was purchased, who made it or how old it is — in all 1,400 of our stores in the U.S., and many stores in Canada. With 1 billion pounds already recycled, we’ve launched a new goal of recycling an additional 2 billion pounds by 2020.

Deborah Hecker, vice president, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, Sodexo North America        

Deborah Hecker, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, Sodexo North America

Hecker

This year Sodexo was named Global Sustainability Industry Leader in its sector for the 10th year in a row by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the longest-running global sustainability benchmark worldwide and a key reference point in sustainability investing.

We also launched two impactful enterprise-wide partnerships: with Partnership for a Healthier America we committed to support healthy lifestyles for healthy families by implementing new wellness standards throughout our business; with the Clinton Global Initiative we committed to expanding our impact in local communities by purchasing $1 billion from small to medium-sized enterprises around the world.

Timothy C. Lindsey, Ph.D., global director of sustainable development, Caterpillar Inc.

Timothy C. Lindsey, Ph.D., Global Director of Sustainable Development, Caterpillar Inc.

Lindsey

In 2014, Caterpillar began a transformational journey with respect to sustainability. For many years, Sustainability has been a key element of our strategy and we have engaged in many worthwhile projects and initiatives that have contributed to improving the quality of life in communities along with the quality of the environment. It will be recognized as a core value at Caterpillar alongside integrity, commitment, excellence and teamwork.

At Caterpillar, we have a unique opportunity to lead in solving some of the world’s most challenging issues associated with energy, water, land, climate and quality of life. Our position as the global leader in providing the products and services needed for carefully extracting resources and developing infrastructure places us at the apex of many issues. As the earth’s population grows and migrates to urban areas, needs for sanitation, water, transportation and housing will escalate dramatically and our products will be important tools for addressing those needs.

Our capabilities associated with distributed power generation, using fuels from diverse sources ranging from natural gas to renewable fuels, can contribute greatly to providing energy access around the globe. These systems are often twice as efficient as the conventional power grid with far less greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the U.N., 25 percent of the world’s land is “highly degraded.” We need to restore the productivity of these lands if we are going to feed the additional 2 billion people that will arrive on the planet over the next several decades. Our machinery can play a major role in restoring these lands to improve ecosystem health, increase land productivity and sequester millions of tons of CO2 naturally in soils and plants.

Dave Stangis, Vice President, Public Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, Campbell Soup Company; President, Campbell Soup Foundation

Stangis

Dave Stangis, vice president, public affairs and corporate responsibility, Campbell Soup Company; president, Campbell Soup Foundation

Developing, launching and bringing to life the Campbell Purpose, Real Food that Matters for Life’s Moments.

Josh Henretig, senior director of energy, environment & cities, Microsoft Corp.

Josh Henretig, Senior Director of Energy, Environment &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Cities, Microsoft Corp.

Henretig

In July, Microsoft announced its largest renewable energy investment to date, a 20-year power purchase agreement for wind energy in Illinois. Our second PPA, it is nearly 60 percent larger than the first, at 175 MW versus 110 MW. Investments like these enable MSFT to be carbon neutral and also have ensured that we are powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

In June, Microsoft announced a three-year agreement with the University of Texas at San Antonio to research and develop distributed generation technologies that will transform how data centers consume energy. As part of this research, UTSA students will work hand-in-hand with Microsoft researchers to look into new “fast-start generation” energy technologies such as micro-turbines and natural gas-powered fuel cells to replace the diesel generators used during times of peak demand.

In order to better address the challenges and opportunities in the increasingly systemic areas of sustainability and cities, in October Microsoft announced the joining of its sustainability and CityNext teams to drive greater synergies for enabling impact at scale. We have more than 220 qualified partners on board delivering more than 800 solutions worldwide, and Microsoft improved its ranking from No. 11 to No. 5 on Navigant Research’s annual Leaderboard for Smart Cities Suppliers.

In November, we celebrated our off-the-grid, fuel cell-powered data center in Cheyenne, Wyo., going live. The data center will operate from energy generated from biogas, which will be used to power fuel cells. These facilities have the potential to change how the technology industry supports the cloud, giving us more flexibility in locating data centers.

Shannon Schuyler, principal, corporate responsibility leader, PwC; president, PwC Charitable Foundation

Shannon Schuyler, PwC Charitable Foundation

Schuyler

Over the past year, we continued to develop and roll out Total Impact Measurement and Management. PwC’s TIMM framework puts a value (positive or negative) on 20 impacts across society, tax, economics and the environment. And it gives business the ability to compare strategies and investment choices, evaluating the total impact of each. We’re excited about this tool and the ability to systematically access trade-offs and even think blue ocean on CR issues.

We also made great strides on carbon reduction this year. PwC US has a goal to reduce our carbon emissions 30 percent by FY16, compared to an FY07 baseline. We continue to build on our environmental strategy with a variety of approaches, including exploring ways to manage our air travel, being flexible in where we work, improving the efficiency of our offices and leveraging the enthusiasm of our Green Team network. Additionally, 100 percent of the energy we used in our offices in our recent fiscal year came from renewable sources. These efforts helped us meet our carbon reduction goal ahead of schedule, reducing our carbon emissions by 38 percent at the end of FY14. In addition to our focus on absolute carbon reduction, we continue to monitor our emissions by full-time employee. Since our initial measurement in FY07, we reduced our emissions per employee by 52 percent.

But merely reaching our goal is not enough. We know it’s important to demonstrate our ability to sustain this level of reduction for the long term. The challenge ahead is to manage our carbon emissions as the firm increases the overall numbers of partners and staff to meet the needs of our clients.

Tom Carpenter, director, sustainability services, Waste Management

Tom Carpenter, Director, Sustainability Services, Waste Management

Carpenter

WM corporate, increasing our CDP score yet again (now 97A-) and crediting our internal consultancy for the advising on the continual improvement. It is a culmination of all the hard work put forth by our team and validation as we help our customer achieve the same greatness.

Brett Illers, program manager, energy efficiency and sustainability, Yahoo

Brett Illers, Program Manager Energy Efficiency &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Sustainability, Yahoo

Illers

Yahoo has accomplished a lot in the way of sustainability this year. From our energy efficiency and on-site generation projects on our Sunnyvale campus to improving our CDP score, we have had a very productive year. One achievement that we were extremely pleased to announce was Yahoo’s 15-year wind deal with Own Energy. The Kansas-based wind farm project will generate over 100,000 MWh annually. The wind energy will feed into the Southwest Power Pool to offset much of our energy usage in the Great Plains region. In a time where there is volatility in electrical costs, this type of partnership model is especially beneficial to ensure that we can continue to power our data centers in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. In addition to price stabilization, this project also qualifies us for Renewable Energy Certificates. This scenario is a true win-win where business interest and sustainability are in parity.

Paul Murray, vice president, sustainability and environmental affairs, Shaw Industries

Paul Murray, Vice President, Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, Shaw Industries

Murray

In 2014, Shaw reinforced our commitment to recycling and the cradle to cradle philosophy with the announcement of a $17 million investment in a new recycling facility. Located in Ringgold, Ga., this addition to our recycling portfolio is an example of our sustainability strategy in action. The move demonstrates our focus on moving toward a more circular economy by diversifying our efforts to keep end-of-use carpet out of landfills.

Emily Hanning, senior sustainability manager, Outerwall     

Emily Hanning, Senior Sustainability Manager, Outerwall

Hanning

We’ve progressed in embedding sustainability into our culture at Outerwall this year, which is demonstrated by an employee-led effort to design our new ecoATMheadquarters to be LEED Gold Certified. Rather than being driven by our corporate responsibility team, our ecoATM and facilities teams partnered on the project to seek Outerwall and ecoATM’s first LEED certification. We believe this embodies the spirit of our culture in that it helps us be green not just in how we work, but where we work.

UC San Diego Expands Advanced Microgrid Green batteries offer eco-friendly energy storage

UC San Diego's microgrid powered by green batteries

Green Batteries capable of storing 2.5 MW and 5 MWh are about to join the existing microgrid at the University of California, San Diego. PHOTO CREDIT: STEVE CURKOV

One of the most advanced microgrids in the world is about to expand with the addition of a sophisticatedenergy storage system.

The existing microgrid at the University of California, San Diego generates 92% of the electricity used on the campus annually. The 2.5 MW, 5 MWh storage system uses lithium-ion iron-phosphate batteries, which contain no heavy metals or toxic electrolytes and are non-explosive and fire-safe even when exposed to direct flames. The batteries will provide another outlet to store intermittent renewable resources such as solar power.

UCSD’s microgrid also includes 3.8 million gallons of thermal energy storage used as a chiller during the warmest time of day, as well as a second-life demonstration site for electic vehicle batteries. The university plans to add a 30 kW ultracapacitor-based storage system that will be combined with an existing concentrated photovoltaic installation.

In addition, UCSD will be eligible for up to $3.25 million in financial incentives after the storage system is installed in spring 2015. The same rebate program is available to customers of any of the four California investor-owned utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, South California Gas, and San Diego Gas & Electric.

Green Materials Report – Fiberglass Insulation

This post is part of the green materials report series.  GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green.  Each post focuses on one material.  We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes green materials green, and any green product certifications that it has earned.  We hope to develop a database of information to help consumers make informed choices about what goes in their buildings.

Fiberglass insulation from Owens Corning

Fiberglass insulation is a man-made fiber material made from recycled glass and sand, and is one of the “green materials” that helps to reduce the amount of energy that goes into keeping a building warm or cool.

Fiberglass insulation is the most popular form of insulation used in the United States. Insulation protects the inside of buildings from the hot or coldness of the air on the outside. It can be produced in either blanket form or as loose fill. The process begins with molten glass flowing past a series of air jets that simultaneously spin out the fibers, coat them with a liquid binder, and break them into random short pieces.  The cooling glass fibers fall onto a moving conveyor belt below, piling up into a tangled mass.  This mass is then cut into strips that are called batts.

The fiberglass “batts” are either stuffed into the spaces between the studs in the exterior walls of a building, or they may be laid down on the bottom of an attic space.  Other forms of insulation, such as loose fill or boards, are used in other locations, such as a basement or crawl space.

 

Why Fiberglass is One of Our Green Materials


Insulation saves energy and money.  Today’s fiberglass insulation is made from recycled glass, which cuts down on the need for fresh resources of sand and glass.  It is available in formulations without formaldehyde in the binder agent.  Formaldehyde is a chemical that can off-gas into the air during and after installation, causing a bad smell and respiratory irritation.

 

Certifications for Green Materials


GreenGuard logo

GreenGuard Gold – The GreenGuard Gold standard includes health based criteria for additional chemicals and also requires lower total VOC emissions levels to ensure that products are acceptable for use in environments such as schools and healthcare facilities.  In addition to limiting emissions of more than 360 VOCs and total chemical emissions, these products must also comply with requirements of the State of California’s Section 01350.

Environmental product declaration for Owens Corning EcoTouch Foil Faced Insulation. No health product declaration could be found for this product

Behold: the 100% Maintenance Free House

longhouse 1

An experimental maintenance free house built in Denmark is exploring ways to eliminate one of the single biggest obstacles to home ownership: upkeep.

Designed collaboratively by RealDaniaBYG and Arkitema Architects, the dwelling is patterned after a traditional Viking longhouse and features almost 1700 square feet of interior living space. The designers anticipate the house will need no significant maintenance for over 50 years, thanks to the novel system they devised to protect the outside of the house from the elements. The entire exterior, including the roof, is covered by a glass shield made of toughened recycled glass sheets.

The glass sheets are then fastened over the plywood exterior walls with a small air gap in between. That gap creates a natural circulation of air drawn in at the bottom and exhausted through a weatherproof opening at the top of the roof. That air flow needs no mechanical assistance and is designed to protect the plywood walls from decay caused by condensation. Raising the entire structure 1.5 feet above the ground promotes this free flow of air around the exterior of the home.

The home features a large central space made up of a living, dining and kitchen area with a bathroom and a technical room off to one side. A mezzanine level has four bedrooms and another bathroom. Energy-efficient skylights installed in the roof allow plenty of natural daylight to enter the home. The interior decor is exactly what one would expect in a Danish home, with lots of wood on the walls, ceilings and floors.

Keep in mind, though: it may be a maintenance free house “on paper”, but that doesn’t mean “the lady of the house” won’t want to change the drapes, paint the walls, and re-model the kitchen every two or three years, regardless.

 

Danish Maintenance Free Longhouse


Irvine Company, City of San Francisco Win Green Building Leadership Awards

7 organizations honored with a 2014 GreenPoint Rated Award for their innovation and commitment to green homes

[Oakland, CA – Dec 17, 2014] – Build It Green has announced seven GreenPoint Rated Award winners for 2014, each selected for their leadership in residential green building in California.

Congratulations to the 2014 winners:

  • Community Builder of the Year: The Irvine Company
  • Affordable Builder of the Year: Resources for Community Development
  • Visionary Builder of the Year: Start.Home at Jasper Ridge
  • Custom Builder of the Year: Conrado Home Builders
  • Green Building Leader in the Public Sector: San Francisco Department of the Environment
  • Home Performance Contractor of the Year: Eco Performance Builders
  • GreenPoint Rater of the Year: Richard Yang

“These professionals are moving the state of California closer to its aggressive climate and energy goals one building at a time,” said Catherine Merschel, CEO of Build It Green. “From Net Zero Energy homes to Solar Decathlon winners to cities pushing the envelope on building codes, the 2014 GreenPoint Rated award winners are the green building innovators and trend setters for California and the nation.”

The annual GreenPoint Rated Awards recognize the industry’s leading building professionals and organizations whose on-the-ground efforts are helping to transform the market for green homes. Their innovations include building and remodeling homes to GreenPoint Rated standards, which emphasize energy and water efficiency, indoor air quality, resource conservation and community features.

Winners of the GreenPoint Rated Awards were selected by Build It Green’s technical staff, which has worked closely with hundreds of builders, raters, contractors, and local governments. Selection criteria include commitment to sustainability and green building innovation, the builder’s volume of GreenPoint Rated projects and GreenPoint Rated home scores, improvements in scores over time, and ability to market and message the benefits of green buildings.

“These winners are raising the bar in the building industry for what a healthy, high-performing home looks like,” said Amy Dryden, Senior Technical Manager at Build It Green. “They also reflect the visionary and collaborative spirit of the GreenPoint Rated system, where builders, local governments, contractors and raters work together to deliver results for homeowners and communities.”

Community Builder of the Year: The Irvine Company

The Irvine Company—comprised of master planners, community builders, real estate investors and asset managers—celebrates 150 years of stewardship and master planning this year. The company has donated approximately 55,000 acres of parklands and open space to the historic Irvine Ranch, part of an effort to create one of the largest urban land preserves in the country. In 2014 alone, Irvine Company completed 460 new homes in eight developments—all of which achieved the GreenPoint Rated certification. To date, Irvine Company has completed more than 11,000 GreenPoint Rated homes. www.irvinecompany.com

Visionary Builder of the Year: Stanford University Start.Home at Jasper Ridge

The Start.Home was Stanford University’s student-designed and built entry in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, coming in 5th overall and 1st in affordability. Reassembled on-site at Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, the goal was to create an affordable Net Zero Energy home that can be brought to market nationwide to help homeowners integrate sustainability into their lives. The home features sustainably sourced materials, passive heating and cooling, PV panels and a custom home energy management system. http://news.stanford.edu/features/2014/starthome/

Affordable Builder of the Year: Resources for Community Development

With more than a decade of experience in green building, Resources for Community Development (RCD) addresses the issues of housing and poverty while also offering green, sustainable options to people earning 20-60% of the median income. In addition to using GreenPoint Rated guidelines to drive energy and resource-efficient building methods and materials, RCD has green operations and maintenance standards in use throughout its portfolio of 50 properties. http://rcdhousing.org

Custom Builder/Remodeler of the Year: Conrado Home Builders

Conrado is committed to creating sustainable, cutting-edge homes, and they skillfully articulate the value of green building to their customers. Driven by the vision and passion of the homeowner, Conrado Home Builders custom-built a Net Zero Energy home in Palo Alto that combines aesthetics, environmental considerations and quality construction. Features include low-flow plumbing fixtures and toilets, low/zero VOC paints, a smart irrigation controller, 14.6kW PV system (estimated 22,900 kWh annual production) that handles house load and plug-in car, radiant floor heating, and live oak ecosystem—adding up to an impressive GreenPoint Rated score of 163. Conrado achieved this success through deep collaboration with the rater and homeowner. www.conrado.com

GreenPoint Rater of the Year: Richard Yang

Among the field of talented raters in California, Richard Yang distinguishes himself not by the volume of homes he rates, but the quality of his work. Yang consistently receives excellent reviews for his services; he always shows attention to detail and submits excellent documentation. He is highly regarded for his responsiveness to clients and to GreenPoint Rated staff. Yang has rated 26 single family homes since 2011, including the Start.Home Solar Decathalon home.

Green Building Leader in the Public Sector: San Francisco Department of the Environment

The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment) has been at the forefront of the nation’s green building movement, and 2014 was no exception. As state energy code updates were set to take effect in 2014, the City looked to update its groundbreaking green building ordinance to even higher, above-code standards.

Even though delays in implementing the state energy code complicated their efforts, SF Environment took proactive steps to collaborate with a private consultant and Build It Green to move forward and prove the cost-effectiveness of their updated ordinance to keep it intact. SF Environment’s leadership remains an inspiration for other local governments in California and nationwide. The department also won this award in 2012 for including green building labels in their official property records, one of myriad examples of their groundbreaking leadership in this field. www.sfenvironment.org

Home Performance Contractor of the Year: Eco Performance Builders

Eco Performance Builders aren’t your typical home performance contractors. They take existing home upgrades to another level by addressing issues beyond energy savings—like water conservation and indoor air quality, and they’re committed to achieving GreenPoint Rated certifications. They’re so skilled in their craft that they continually seek new challenges and opportunities to push the envelope for green homes.

This summer, Eco Performance built a new and unique Net Zero Energy home in the Oakland hills. The home boasted outstanding performance and a groundbreaking guarantee: zero annual energy bills for the first three years or Eco Performance would pay the difference. As this award underscores, that confidence in their work. www.ecoperformancebuilders.com

About Build It Green and GreenPoint Rated

Build It Green is a member-supported non-profit working to expand the market for green homes in California. Our mission is to promote healthy, energy- and resource-efficient building practices in California through outreach and education. Learn more at www.builditgreen.org.

GreenPoint Rated is the most trusted independent home rating system in California, for proof that a home is healthy, comfortable, durable and energy efficient. More than 21,000 homes have been rated through the program, administered by Build It Green. These homes have collectively saved more than 58 million kilowatt hours of electricity, 259 million gallons of water, and 103,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. Learn more atwww.greenpointrated.com.

There’s No Business Like Home Business When Home Business Is Your Business

A modern home office.The Small Business Administration recently pointed out that almost half of all businesses in the United States are home-based businesses. The Department of Housing and Urban Development tells us that 35.9% of Americans are renting, as of last quarter. Assuming an average distribution, that means that roughly 18% of all American rental units have a business being run out of them. Statistically, if you own just 5 rental units, there’s a good chance a business is being run from one of them.

Why is that an issue? There’s several reasons.

  • Zoning Laws: If your rental is in a mixed-use area, no problem. If it’s zoned entirely residential, the business may be illegal — and if it’s discovered, that can spell legal trouble for you as the landlord.
  • Licensing: Similarly, if a tenant of yours is running a business without a license to do so, and you know about it, it can have legal ramifications for you.
  • Liability: If your tenant’s business requires ‘customers’ to set foot on your property, you suddenly have all of the same liability issues that a real business does — only as the landlord, you are the one on the hook if an accident occurs.
  • Annoyed Neighbors: might seem like the least of your worries, but if a neighbor is bothered by all of the people coming in and out of your rental ‘business’, it can lead to them complaining to the city, which can bring any or all of the above issues into the light.

So, the first and most important question if you suspect a tenant is running a business out of your rental is this:

Will it Damage My Property & What is my Liability Exposure?
On a final note, not all from-home businesses are worth bothering over. If your tenant is making money selling his old crap on eBay, or writing websites freelance on oDesk, or otherwise not actually interacting with anyone physically in the home, then they’re probably not violating any laws or increasing your liability and you have nothing to worry about.

Is There a Relevant Clause In Your Lease?
If you’re canny, there will be a clause in your lease that specifically addresses the potential of a tenant running a business in your rental — generally, one that says “No.” Or, more specifically, “No Premises or Common Area ofProperty Address shall be used for any business, professional, or trade purpose, or for any purpose other than as a private residence.

If Not…
If you don’t already have such a clause, consider adding one. Then, talk to your business-running resident about a solution. This may include: getting properly licensed, applying for city required permits/registration and getting properly insured (be sure to be added as ‘additionally insured’). Even if it’s not on the lease, you can point out all of the above issues and inform them that the business isn’t allowable for those reasons. All states allow for eviction if the tenant is violating the law, so unless they can show you their business license and that they are complying with all local ordinances, you have solid grounds to evict. If not, you can always seek out complaints from the neighbors or prove that the business is causing wear and tear above and beyond the norm to your property.

Preventing This From Happening Again
To keep home businesses from cropping up in your rentals, be attentive during your tenant screening. Is their line of work conducive to business from home? How stable is their current job? Asking a probing question or two can be very revealing.

Going forward, keep in mind that a current tenant may lose their job and start a home-based business or start one at any time to supplement their income. So, you should keep alert for signs this is happening. One way is noting your tenants’ payment methods. If they suddenly switch to paying via cash, PayPal or a similar online service, investigate a little.

A Few Tips to Save On Energy Bills This Winter

NIST-House

Everyone can benefit from a few well-placed suggestions on how to save energy this winter. Conserving heat doesn’t mean you have to rush out and buy all new high performance windows or rip the walls out to add insulation. There are quite a few sensible things you can do that cost very little money but can reduce you heating bill significantly.

Free or inexpensive things you can do.

Turn Down The Thermostat: I was at Home Depot the other day and noticed they had lots of programmable, internet connected “smart” thermostats available. Most of them cost around $250 or so. While it may be a great feeling to know you can control your thermostat with your cell phone, it is just as easy to get up off the couch, walk over to your thermostat, and turn it down a few degrees when you go to bed or when you plan to be away from home for a few hours. You’ll save money if you do.

Weatherstrip exterior doors: A 1/8″ air gap around a door is equivalent to drilling a 6″ hole in the side of your house. The more air you can keep from leaking in or leaking out around your doors, the lower your heating bills will be. Home Depot and Lowe’s carry a wide assortment of weather stripping products. Most are inexpensive and can be installed with simple hand tools.

Insulate around switch plates: The electrical boxes that your switches and outlets fit into often make an opening in your wall insulation that lets drafts and cold air inside. Just unscrew the switch plate or outlet cover and fit a foam insulating pad between it and the wall. Then screw it back on.

Bleed Your Radiators: If you have an older home with radiators, take a few moments to bleed any air trapped inside at least once a year. That air can interfere with the smooth passage of hot water through the radiator, which increases your heating bills.

Wash Your Windows: Heat from the sun is free and can add a lot of warmth to your home in the winter months. But if your windows are dirty, that solar heating will be reduced. Maximize how much heat you get from sun by washing your windows before winter sets in.

Clean Your Gutters: Blocked gutters and downspouts can cause water to back up under your roof leading to annoying leaks and expensive repairs. Get out the ladder and do it yourself or hire a strapping young lad from the neighborhood to do the job for you. Either way, you’ll be glad you did.

More money, better results.

Ready to spend a little more money? Here are some tips that cost a few dollars but can have a dramatic effect on your heating bills.

Add insulation to the attic: Most houses have only 6″ of insulation in the attic. You can double or even triple that. Since 80% of all the heat lost from your home goes through the roof, this is an area where a little time and effort can pay big dividends. If you are not sure how to do it yourself, hire a professional insulation installer to do work. It is important to make sure that the new insulation does not block any soffit or ridge vents.

Add interior storm windows: If your house has older windows that are no longer weather tight, you can install an extra insulating pane from the inside and avoid the high cost of replacement windows. One product on the market is called the Indow and consists of a layer of flexible acrylic surrounded by a silicone seal. Just snap it into place when you need to. It can be easily removed when the weather turns warm next Spring.

Install a fireplace insert: A drafty fireplace can send almost 10% of the heat you pay for right up the chimney. Adding a fireplace insert cuts down on drafts and adds the ability to heat your home with wood. Be sure to compare models and prices. An inexpensive stove may be just as drafty as your old fireplace. Make sure it has a sealed firebox to keep smoke and carbon monoxide out of your living space. Better inserts are $2000 – $4000 installed.

Consider a pellet stove: Pellet stoves provide lots of heat and the pellets are an eco-friendly fuel. They all have a blower that distributes air throughout the house. Like fireplace inserts, there are good ones and not so good ones. As usually happens, you get what you pay for. Pellets are more convenient to store and move around than wood – there’s no cutting, splitting, or stacking involved. My wife and I have had a pellet stove for 4 years and we find our fuel oil usage has been cut by almost 2/3. That’s an investment that has more than paid off! Be sure to only use premium wood pellets. Some brands create enormous amounts of ash and can damage your stove.  Better pellet stoves are $2000 – $4000 installed

Okay. Congratulations. You have finished your pre-winter “save energy” checklist and are now ready to enjoy a cozy, draft free home environment from now until the swallows return to Capistrano.

 

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5 Easy DIY Home Improvement Tips for Winter

wpid-home-improvement-ideas-and-tips

“The Old Farmer’s Almanac” reputedly has around an 80 percent success rate when it comes to predicting the weather. With that in mind, it’s worth listening when the periodical says the 2014-2015 winter will be one of the coldest in recent memory. “Colder is just almost too familiar a term,” said editor Janice Stillman. “Think of it as a refriger-nation.”

Assuming “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” is correct, which it often is, homeowners should use this information to prep their homes for the winter. Due to bitter cold and slippery condensation, the weather can cause significant damage to a home’s exterior. Inside a home, leaks can let cold air in, waste heat and raise energy costs.

Below are some helpful and easy-to-do home improvement tips to prepare your home for the upcoming harsh winter:

Attic Insulation

Although extensive insulation work could be costly, a great cost-efficient way to increase the heat efficiency in your home is by adding an extra layer of insulation between the attic floor and ceiling beneath it. When crawling up the attic, a good hint that shows you need more insulation is if you see the floor joists. Heat rises, so an extra layer of insulation in the attic can prevent the heat from escaping. Similarly, adding insulation to crawlspaces and your basement is another good way to save heat.

Declutter, Slowly and Steadily

Winter weather equals more time inside, which means a greater importance for indoor cleanliness and tidiness. A basic clean-up is too obvious to be a useful tip – and on the contrary you shouldn’t have to bulldoze through your rooms – but what many homeowners overlook is that they should focus on one room or area at a time when cleaning and organizing. January is Get Organized Month, so devote time after the holidays to go room-by-room, corner by corner and shelf by shelf, steadily tidying up as you go.

Get an Energy Audit, or Use an Infrared Thermometer

Energy audits aren’t too expensive; even with their price, an audit can save several times the amount in heat conservation. Hire a professional BPI-certified energy rater to inspect your home to see if there are any leaks that are letting heat escape. If an energy audit doesn’t fit in your budget, it’s possible to identify areas of need by using an infrared thermometer, which allows you to measure surface temperatures and detect problematic spots that need insulation.

Seal Can Lights

Some homes have can lights that are actually designed to let in ventilation to prevent the light bulb from overheating. This is understandable in theory, but can result in heat escaping. Try to seal can lights when possible; look for can lights directly below a roof and use an infrared thermometer or your hand to detect a leak. Once sealed, make sure to use a bulb that is not incandescent. Instead, opt for something like an LED recessed light, which is efficient and does not build up heat.

Run Your Ceiling Fan in Reverse

The good majority of ceiling fans have a switch or button that puts the fans in reverse motion, resulting in warmer air that pools near the ceiling, cutting heating costs by around 10 percent. This tip can literally take a minute to do, but save a house hundreds of dollars.

Winter may be coming, but that doesn’t mean that homeowners have to suffer through cold drafts and high energy costs. The five tips above will help conserve energy costs and keep homes warm and toasty throughout the bitter cold winter.

7 Winter Home Improvement Tips to Save You Money and Energy In the Cold Season

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This year’s record breaking summer high temperatures and general worrisome warming trenddon’t necessarily mean that the coming winter will be a walk in the park. Before the cold weather strikes, get your home buttoned up and ready for it with our expert hands-on game plan, which will not only make your home more comfortable and energy efficient, but save you some money while you’re at it. From big changes that will knock hundreds of dollars off your energy bill to smaller ones that need just a bit of elbow grease and a few materials from your local hardware store, we’ll show you what you need to get the job done! So no matter if you rent or own your house, check out these 7 handy tips that we promise will make a real difference in keeping you warm and your energy bill manageable this winter.

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TIP 1: Get an Energy Audit

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we should mention that the best way to get your home operating at its maximum efficiency is to hire a professional BPI certified energy rater to evaluate your spaces. This person will conduct what’s called an “energy audit” and he or she will test your home for energy losses and safety issues, and generate a detailed report highlighting what your home’s issues are. With a report in hand you can easily target and prioritize exactly what you need to do, and what you can afford to do.

If you can’t afford an energy audit, you can start to identify and remedy some problem areas on your own with the help of an infrared thermometer, like the Ryobi Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer. This handy gun allows you to safely measure surface temperatures and pinpoint spots where your home is experiencing air leaks or missing insulation. As energy efficiency expert David Johnsonsays, “Air leaks account for 25-30% of an average energy bill, and this is one of the most profound steps that you can make for the betterment of your home’s comfort and reducing the amount of your monthly bill.”

Our tips ahead will address common problem areas seen in all types of homes, and they will offer solutions to problems that can be easily fixed, often without calling on help from a professional.

Energy Audit, Energy star, How to weatherize, air sealing, winterize your home, products to save energy,

TIP 2: Seal Your Walls

The mantra in green construction is: “seal it tight, ventilate right”. The sealing part is about getting a handle on all the places where air penetrates through the wall and causes drafts and fluctuations to the temperature inside your home. A simple tube of high quality caulk and a plan to tackle all those problem areas can go a long way if you know where to look (hint: grab your infrared thermometer).

What keeps the outside air out of your home is typically the interior walls (or drywall), but you’ll find many holes that have been cut out of these walls to install your plugs and switches. If you have ever removed the face-plates of  these plugs and switches during cold weather, you’ll have probably noticed some cold air pouring out. Reduce this leakage by using caulk to seal around the the area where the electric box meets the drywall. If you’re comfortable working around electricity, head to the breaker, turn it off, then test the outlets to make sure they are really off. Once off, you can then pull them out of the box and begin to seal up all the little holes in the back of the box, including where the wires come through.

Energy Audit, Energy star, How to weatherize, air sealing, winterize your home, products to save energy,

TIP 3: Seal Your Home’s Can Lights

Other notorious culprits that contribute to air leaks are recessed lights found in the ceiling. Many old can lights are actually vented on purpose to keep from being overheated by the lightbulb (they are called non-IC or non-insulation contact rated cans). Because warm air rises, an unsealed can light below a roof is a big problem. It’s a good idea is to remove the existing ring of this can and seal the can’s perimeter with caulk. The inside of the can should be sealed with either caulk or aluminum tape to keep your home’s warm air from escaping into the attic.

It’s very important that you not put an incandescent bulb in the can. Instead, opt for something like aCree LED recessed light – this light is dimmable, super-efficient and does not build up heat. Moreover, if you have a non-IC rated can, it’s a really good idea to put a note inside to not use incandescent lights in the future. An overheated fixture has the potential to cause serious problems. If you can’t give up your incandescent, another approach is to go into the attic, install and seal a box made from drywall around the light, and then insulate from above. This has the added benefit of improving you r-value, or insulating effectiveness.

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TIP 4: Look For Insulation Gaps

Anywhere you have something that penetrates the wall, there is bound to be an air leak. Check out the outside faucets, air vents and plumbing for large gaps where air can escape. Seal the penetrations with expanding foam so that every nook and cranny is filled. Be careful to never seal next to a gas flue or you will have a fire hazard on your hands.

Once that is done, if you are ready to get dirty, check out where the foundation meets the house and crawlspace and fill those little forgotten cracks — note areas where you see even the slightest bit of daylight passing through. There is even an expanding foam for the big holes and a fire blockversion for holes between floors or for sealing electrical boxes. We also recommend practicing on a scrap surface to see how the foam works. Remember to wear gloves when using the foam — this stuff is really sticky before it sets!

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While expanding foam is ideal when dealing with air leaks, spray-and-go won’t always work with those extra big gaps. In spots that need an extra bit of air-stopping artillery, we recommend rolling out some insulation. But before grab for that pink stuff on the shelf — a.k.a. fiberglass insulation — we recommend that you consider using Ultratouch denim insulation instead. Unlike its counterpart, Ultratouch is made from high-quality natural fibers (80% of which are post-consumer recycled) that provide for extremely effective sound absorption and good thermal performance. You also won’t have to worry about getting the “fiberglass itch” with the denim insulation; it is easy to handle and work with — but we still recommend using a mask. The perforated batts make off-size cavity installation easy. Simply measure, tear, carefully fit and cover with an air tight barrier and you are good to go.

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TIP 5: Check and Tune-up Your Heating System

Before the start of the cold season, it’s not a bad idea to tune up your furnace. 30% of an average home’s energy costs are related to heating, and this number can spike further if you have inefficiencies with your furnace or boiler system. The first place to start is by replacing the filter at the beginning of the season and every couple of months while you run the furnace. When purchasing a new filter, note that the cheap ones are made just to protect the furnace fan motor, so make sure to get a more efficient and healthy pleated filter for improved air quality.

A tune-up is a good way to cut down on energy, prevent carbon monoxide leaks, and keep the air inside your home safe and healthy for you and your family. A tune-up should be a top priority, especially given that your furnace or boiler system will be running at full blast for months to come — you don’t want it to give out right when you need it the most! While the cost of a tune-up may at first glance seem like an unnecessary expenditure, keep in mind that small problems can easily turn into much larger, expensive replacements down the road. A new furnace is a substantial financial investment — regular maintenance postpones its replacement.

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Image: Early morning frosty winter view through a window via Shutterstock

TIP 6: Check Your Windows

Windows that are unsuited for a home’s local climate can be a big contributor to inefficiency. If you live in an area that gets especially cold in the winter, investing in windows with insulated glass that’s double-paned or even triple-paned has the potential to transform the comfort of your home and your energy bill.

There are three main types of windows that are available on the market today and they include single-pane, double-pane, and super-triple-pane windows. Single- and double- pane windows are common in older houses, but windows in newer homes are commonly treated with Low-emittance(low-E) coatings (this can include both super windows and double pane windows). Low-E coatings are microscopically thin, virtually invisible, metal or metallic oxide layers deposited on a window to suppress radiative heat flow. The coating keeps radiant heat on the same side of the glass from which it originated, all while letting visible light pass — which means in the winter heat is reflected in, and in the summer heat is reflected out. Different types of Low-E coatings have beendesigned to allow for high solar gain, moderate solar gain, or low solar gain, and their application will depend on what region your home is located.

Super windows are a more recent development that feature a third pane of treated glass, and in some cases boast a krypton/argon/air gas mix in between the panes. When it comes to thermal performance, these windows are second to none and they can reduce your energy bill by hundreds of dollars. The choices can be daunting when selecting new windows and payback long, so make sure to do diligent research and ‘tune’ your windows to take advantage of solar heat.

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While new windows would be great for everyone, we understand that they are a hefty investment that require a lot of technical analysis from a skilled professional. Moreover, new windows can often be just marginally more efficient than old ones (compared to your wall’s r-value for instance). Energy efficiency is about looking at the home as a system, and this is a long-term investment you shouldn’t be hasty or thrifty about. Get an energy audit before you make the plunge into making any window replacement.

With that said, there are many improvements that you can make to what you already have. They require just a little effort, but can pay out big in cash savings and improved comfort. More simple remedies can easily be found on the shelves of your local hardware store. Purchase some caulkand cellular shades (insulating blinds) to really increase efficiency. Use caulk to seal the window frame, and then setup your cellular shades. These shades are easy to install and work by creating pockets of air to insulate windows from the cold. A good set of shades can double or triple a window’s performance making these a no brainier for winter comfort and energy savings.

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TIP 7: Install a Smart Thermostat

Ok, so you got through the grunt work, now its time to put in some sexy technology to really save some energy. Programmable thermostats (or t-stats) have gotten a bad rap for being difficult to use, and the EPA has yanked their Energy Star designation as a result. However, there are new, much more intuitive designs out there, like the Wi-Fi enabled Honeywell t-stat. Honeywell’s model not only lets you control the device from your iPhone or computer, but it tells you when there are significant temperature swings coming and even when the filter needs to be changed.

Programmable thermostats come in many varieties and price ranges, and getting one can save the average household about $180 a year if it’s used right. The idea is simple: these smart devices allow you to optimize your home’s energy-efficiency by setting pre-programmed temperatures for different situations, seasons and times. For example, you probably don’t want to be paying for heat during the day when you’re not even there, right? You can set your programmable thermostat to automatically turn down the heat during those hours and turn it up when you and your family come home to save money and energy.